Benjamin Yin, MBA, has just shared an idea with his staff. Jennifer, the director of client services, has some thoughts:
“That’s a stupid idea, Ben,” she tells Yin, a seven-year MDRT member from Norcross, Georgia. “We shouldn’t do that.”
And that honesty, informed by knowing Yin very well, is exactly why she’s there.
Jennifer is one of Yin’s two staff members, both of whom were friends with their eventual boss before they were hired. Jennifer, who met Yin in church more than a decade ago, knows he won’t be offended when she speaks her mind.
“I want her input,” Yin said, “and that’s the type of situation where if you’re someone who was just hired as a new employee, you may not feel comfortable challenging my ideas.”
Focusing on working with physicians, Yin has been in business for eight years, and all four of the people he’s hired have been his friends beforehand. That does come with some guidelines. Early in his business, Yin’s wife tried to help him, and the experiment lasted only two days. The difficulty in drawing the distinction between colleague and loved one is part of the reason Yin would not bring on his best friends as staff.
Rather, he approaches those with whom he has a friendship but tests the waters with an interview and sets expectations as best as he can. That involves making sure they understand being at work means actually working, not just hanging out as friends. Yin makes it clear they must acknowledge and respect his authority as the boss, and that client confidentiality won’t be broken as a result of having mutual friends.
“It is not an easy balance to strike,” Yin said, noting that it takes effort to not talk about work while hanging out outside the office and vice versa. “It is not a science. It is very, very much an art.”
In the process, Yin has valued knowing his staff beforehand, and the comfort that comes from knowing that person will have his back and not harm the business or steal his clients.
And with the right people, that trust breeds loyalty and responsibility rather than an instinct to take advantage. Yin’s staff is free to take as much time off as they need, and they know that they can leave during the day for something like a child’s appointment.
He also allows his director of planning to work from home on Fridays because he lives far from the office. “I don’t know if he’s working or not; I just know that the work needs to be done, and the work gets done,” Yin said. “Most of my meetings are virtual anyway. Why do I need my staff in my office every single day?”
Yin values the comfort of knowing his staff will have his back and not harm the business or steal clients.
As long as staff members are honest, Yin said, then he is happy, and it is important to remember that they are friends, not just employees.
He has not had to have the stereotypical but easily imagined, “OK, guys, get back to work,” conversation. There is plenty of room for fun, whether outside the office during mud races the team participates in, or in the office during lunch. Once the balance is found, Yin said, it’s easy to maintain.
Besides: “If people are at a desk watching a funny YouTube video, I’ll join in,” he said. “I want to see funny YouTube videos too!”
6 questions Yin uses to connect with his niche
It is no secret there is value in working within a niche market. You focus your clientele, they perceive you as an expert and refer you to others enough that, as Benjamin Yin said, “the fish are jumping into the boat.”
How has Yin solidified his presence working with physicians? It partially boils down to knowing the answers to a set of questions Yin calls “the sweet 6”:
1. Who’s your audience? Yin did not always specialize in working with physicians, but once he was working with a few dozen of them and recognized the potential to establish himself with this market, he made these clients the focus of his practice. They now make up 85 percent of his clientele.
2. What are their pain points? This includes liability, asset protection and disability coverage. Yin encourages constant education and closeness with clients to understand what they are going through and how to help.
3. How can you minimize their pain? Aside from the basics of identifying challenges and solving problems, Yin also creates great-looking, self-made and self-edited videos that both humanize him and tap into what clients may be thinking about. In one video, he films himself at the pool of an Airbnb house that he and his family rented in South Florida, using the liability of the pool to address asset protection and how clients can benefit from not paying off their mortgage too quickly.
4. What are the emotional reasons they buy from you? Yin makes sure all prospects and clients begin their relationship with him by watching a video that shares his personal story, so they know why he does what he does. The video explains how Yin’s father, an avid skydiver without life insurance, was killed in a plane crash when Yin was very young. It motivated Yin’s mother, now a widowed mother of two, to become an advisor herself. She wanted to ensure no other families faced the financial hardships she did, which is what led Yin to enter the profession.
5. What is your competition doing? Yin recognized that when he failed to close a sale, it was often because of what the client had read on a blog written by an emergency room physician, who offers financial advice despite not being licensed in the financial services profession. Rather than lament the situation, Yin took the doctor’s course to better understand his position and communicate better with clients when they cite this blog.
6. Minimum expectation vs. differentiation? Yin explained this with an example about air travel: Airlines don’t promote not crashing as a perk of what they offer. Not crashing is the minimum expectation for passengers. Instead, an airline like Southwest promotes that it does not charge bag fees or change fees, which differentiates it from other airlines. Similarly, Yin created a second website for his practice highlighting his work with physicians to show his work in this niche. He also hosts client appreciation events (such as taking physicians to go ax throwing, encouraging them to bring a friend/referral) and further connects with clients by, in one case, sending a snow cone truck to their office on a hot day.
Yin spoke at the 2018 MDRT EDGE in Boston, Massachusetts.